On March 20, Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) Sky Sign Department wrote to Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML), asking it to remove 38 “unauthorised hoardings” that had been put up on the bus shelters of Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) “within 24 hours” or else the civic body will dismantle them on its own. It’s been almost three months since and the “unauthorised hoardings” put at various BRT bus stops without having requisite permission from the sky sign department in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad are still intact.
Activist Qaneez Sukhrani, who has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) about illegal sky signs and installations within municipal limits, said the episode shows the “duplicity and impunity” with which the PMC operates. “As if there are different set of rules for private agencies and different ones, or none, for PMC and its sister concern, PMPML,” said Sukhrani.
According to PMC officials, the sky sign department has not moved to dismantle the hoardings because the permission from the office of Municipal Commissioner Saurabh Rao is awaited. The file, they say, is pending in his office.
As per documents obtained by Sukhrani from the sky sign department, under the Right To Information Act 2005, on March 20, the traffic police wrote to the department informing them about the hoardings that may lead to accidents on the road. The same day, the sky sign department wrote to PMPML, informing that the hoardings were illegal as per the Maharashtra Municipalities Act, 1965 as well as provisions of Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation (Control of Advertisement and Hoarding) Rules, 2003. Following this, the PMC’s Road department too wrote to PMPML saying that the way the hoardings were being installed were dangerous for safety of passengers and road users.
However, none of these has made PMPML to take any action or the PMC to enforce the law. “Only last month, the PMC had razed hoardings put up by 207 agencies in the city after they failed to submit structural audit to prove their stability. In the present case, the PMPML or the advertising agency contracted by it has not been given a permit but all the hoardings are still standing. This is happening despite a contempt petition being heard in the Bombay High Court over PMC’s failure to follow HC orders on the subject,” said Sukhrani.
The issue assumes importance in the backdrop of the incident on October 5, 2018, near Shahir Amar Shaikh square that claimed four lives in the city, after a giant hoarding collapsed on the road. The hoarding installed on the railway property was not removed even after multiple letters written by PMC’s Sky Sign department.
As per the Indian Road Congress (IRC) norms, permission should not be given to advertising boards that may divert the attention of the road users. “Advertisements can often effectively distract the attention of drivers… they are a public hazard. They may also obstruct the view of the fast moving vehicles,” reads a norm on roadside hoardings.
Sky Sign head Vijay Dahibhate could not be reached.